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News/Business. Keith Morrison, Josh Mankiewicz, Hoda Kotb. Investigative journalism. (CC) (Stereo)

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01:00:00

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ac3

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TOPIC FREQUENCY

Ben 9, Us 9, Craig 5, Geico 5, America 4, Devon 3, Francis 3, Jake 3, Chicago 3, Melissa 3, S.c. 2, Washington 2, Yada 2, Johnson 2, Ben Oxly 2, Cardinal Francis George 2, Cindy 2, Ziggy 2, Nearby Lake Tahoe 1, Dawn 1,
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  NBC    Dateline NBC    News/Business. Keith Morrison, Josh Mankiewicz,  
   Hoda Kotb. Investigative journalism. (CC) (Stereo)  

    March 18, 2013
    2:00 - 3:00am PDT  

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window and into the master bedroom a little after 3:00 in the morning. >> it's really, really bad. >> what's really bad? >> my husband. >> strange, the things that happen to people under a full moon. good people, not so good people. under that moon that night, it was hard to tell which was which, who was who. >> this is a case built on lies and deception and a cat and mouse. who knew what it was? >> but the story, when it began back in 2005 was about love or what certainly felt like it. in fact, fair to say, it was two kinds of love. there was what happened to ben when he met melissa. >> soons he met melissa, it was something i'd never seen. >> he was a changed man. >> absolutely.
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melissa really made the difference. >> and if anybody would know, his best friends would. cindy and scott. >> ben was family. i mean, he was family. >> and then there was ben's other love, brightest thing in his life, the one good thing that came from his first marriage, alissa. >> everybody said that i, he was he loved me more than anything. and i think it's true. >> quite true, of course. so there was a little jockeying at first. two women, one man, even if one of the women was just 3. >> our first date, alisa was there. we were just eating and i was talking to ben, trying to get to know him. and she was like, don't talk to my dad. >> i remember meeting her. i didn't really like her. she was talking to my dad. >> more than talking to him as it soon turned out. ben and melissa moved in together just a month later, sort of thing a 3 year old finds
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hard to understand. >> and she said i love you. and i said don't talk to my dad that way. >> but as we said, it was a love story. ben for both of them. as the friend and future brides maid put it. >> he was truly her best friend. and he was the best dad. that's all he cared about was alissa. that was his priority, was to take care of her. >> so it was melissa, and ben, and alissa. a threesome. >> he was so involved in every aspect of her life. they were like two peas in a pod. >> and one september day in 2006, ben and melissa got married. the ceremony at nearby lake tahoe. melissa a glowing bride, alissa, a little flower girl. >> it wasn't just melissa and ben getting married it was them marrying alissa too. >> they made a ceremony of it.
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>> alissa, will you promise to share in the love of this family? if so, please say i will. >> i had got her a little bracelet and got it engraved, letting her know i would always love her as my own and gave it to her that day. >> and from that moment on alissa called melissa mom. >> how did that make you feel? >> happy. very happy. >> oh, what a happy couple they were. a happy family. >> it's what you wait for all your life. >> what were your plans? >> to buy a house and have babies and have a family. >> they eventually moved here, a three bedroom ranch. alissa spent half her time with ben and melissa, the other time with her birth mom, ben's ex-wife, dawn. but above all what ben really
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wanted was to have his little girl permanently. >> he never thought that he could have his daughter. and i was like, yeah, you can. you could. >> and he did. he won custody. >> it was him and his daughter. and that's what he had always wanted. >> and then the little household grew. melissa's teenage brother craig moved in. and then winter came. and the wind. and on february 20th, 2008, the moon rose full over the carson valley. after dinner, ben, melissa, her teenage brother craig and little alissa settled in the den to watch a movie. melissa remembers falling asleep on the couch, waking up with a start. >> thinking i was late for work. it was like 2:30 in the morning. i was like oh, i'm not late. so i got in bed. >> crawled in with ben, moonlight on the covers, warm inside. >> about an hour later is when i was woke up by the smell and
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then a loud noise and my ears were ringing. at first i thought i was dreaming. >> a smell? >> yeah. it was a smell. >> gunpowder smell. >> mm-hm. >> as she told it, she looked over to ben. saw by the light of the moon he appeared to have slept through whatever it was. she nudged him. he didn't stir. >> i was like okay. i'll go check it out. so i walked around our bed and got about halfway down the hallway and realized that our front dor was open. >> but you didn't see anybody? >> no. >> halfway down the hall, she said, cold air rushing in. she knew something was very wrong. so she ran back to the bedroom, turned on the light. >> i went to go wake him up. and then i could see him. >> yeah. hard to get that one out of your head, isn't it? >> yes. >> and thus her call to 911 and
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the detective who rushed over to find out what happened and discovered that he could not tell. >> you've got the wife. you've got a small six year old child and you've got a 15 year old boy in the house, and you've got everybody saying they don't know what happened. >> when we come back, how did everyone else survive that night without a scratch? the investigation begins. and melissa is at the very center. a dramatic police interrogation, when while they were sleeping continues. so if you have a flat tire, dead battery, need a tow or lock your keys in the car, geico's emergency roadside assistance is there 24/7. oh dear, i got a flat tire. hmmm. uh... yeah, can you find a take where it's a bit more dramatic on that last line, yeah? yeah i got it right here. someone help me!!! i have a flat tire!!!
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i was just confused and shocked because i still felt like i was asleep. >> on february 21st, 2008, melissa called 911. >> so the gun noise was like a gunshot? >> i tried to wake up my husband, and it's really, really bad. >> it certainly was. ben had been shot point-blank in the head. but melissa was unharmed. she ran into alissa's room and call 911. and alice sa was six years old and completely unaware of what happened, asked to see her father. >> i want to go see my dad. i want to go see my dad. and i just told her you can't. you can't go see your dad. >> it was a little after 3:00
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when detective got the call. he woke up fast to a very big problem. a killing. just didn't make sense. >> appearing like a ghost has done this. no evidence. no weapon. everybody in the house says i don't know. >> a ghost. >> yeah. that's what it feels like because you have no idea. >> how was it possible melissa hadn't seen the person who'd shot ben? she'd been lying right next to him. why was she upharmed? >> that's kind of a red flag starts popping up. you think okay. this doesn't seem right. >> and had craig, melissa's teenage brother truly slept through the whole thing? >> i open my eyes and right in my face was a bunch of barrels from machine guns. >> it was police, police who had already discovered shotgun shells on the dresser.
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>> is he faking? >> melissa, craig, and little alissa were taken to the sheriff's department at 4 a.m. >> it was alissa. and she was crying. my daddy's been shot. at the time jamie arrived melissa was already being grilled by detectives. detective el gas had questions. so many things about this murder didn't make sense. >> other thing i don't understand is why somebody shoots him, and you don't see anything. >> i don't know. >> maybe it was the man ben warned her about, she said, a rough customer who. the detective sent officers to dawn's house where they woke her
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up, sleepy but unharmed and discovered that the man in question was hundreds of miles away when the murder happened. so, again, the questions were for melissa. >> sometimes people know more than they want to tell or share. >> i don't know. >> alissa was six by this time, was the only person who remembered seeing anything unusual. and she told the detective right away. >> i woke up and saw somebody walking in. and i got -- >> do you know who they were? >> i don't know who it was. >> she saw a shadow in her doorway looking at her. and then the shadow left. she went back to sleep and then melissa came in and grabbed her and was talking to 911. >> the detective discovered that the bullet was a number 8 bird shot. same ammunition they discovered
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in craig's room. so the question to craig. >> did you kill ben? >> no, i did not. >> and sure enough, when they tested craig for gunshot residue or blood castoff he was clean. could not have fired that gun. and so back to melissa. >> i know it doesn't make sense. >> i understand. i'm not blaming you. i'm asking you if saw -- >> because there was blood on melissa, and gunshot residue. >> just the truth is all i'm hoping you'll giving me. >> melissa's friend jamie was there when she came out of the
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interrogation room. >> i mean, melissa just dropped to the floor when she saw me. and she had a little bit of blood on her. she just said i didn't do this. i know you didn't do it. >> but jamie knew there were others and not just the police, who were very suspicious of melissa. >> she's the wife. she was laying in bed with him. it doesn't make sense if she wasn't shot. >> did melissa do it? you hope not, but i mean, she could have. why wasn't she shot? i thought, if she did commit the murder, she's going to make a mistake. you can only live that lie so long. >> coming up, a new clue. what police believe might be a reason for murder. >> a $400,000 life insurance policy.
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melissa was just 27 years old and already a widow. her 36 year old husband, ben, shot dead while he slept in bed right next to her. as far as she could tell, said melissa, the shooter managed to break into the house, shoot ben without harming her and leave not a trace of evidence behind. the case boggled the detective's mind. >> is there somebody that doesn't like him? is this a murder for hire? >> melissa's closest friends believed her when she insisted that she had nothing to do with it, that she'd lost the love of her life and that now she and those around her were in terrible danger. >> because you don't know who did it. you don't know if they're going to come back for melissa. >> ma lynn sa, meanwhile, tried
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to be a source of comfort for her stepdaughter. the little girl's father had been her world. leaving her now in a world of chaos. and with her home and love nest now a crime scene, melissa and alissa moved in with the woman who'd been the brides maid at the wedding, jamie. and it was at night when the curtains were drawn that jamie watched melissa reeling with pain. >> many nights of crying in the middle of the night. i would hear her. i kind uf went and laid in bed with her. didn't sleep, couldn't sleem. >> just getting into a bed after that happened. >> didn't want to. >> so where would you sleep? >> on the floor. >> and if the pain and suffering of losing her husband wasn't hard enough, melissa was the lead suspect. and not just in the eyes of the police. >> cause nobody, including the
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public, including the families had any idea why this would happen. so they're all grasping at straws to figure out this possibility, that possibility. >> ben's sister thought melissa arranged the murder. so did that mean little alissa was living with a murderer? alissa began to spend more time at her mother dawn's house. and one day child she was there ben's sister warned her about the step mom she came to love. >> she told me that she thought my step mom killed my dad that night. >> must be pretty weird to hear that. >> yeah. i didn't believe it, but -- >> didn't believe it at all? >> but if alissa didn't believe it, others did. and before long, they had more ammunition because of something
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else detective elgas discovered. >> a $400,000 life insurance policy. it sounds a lot like she had the motivation to want this to happen. >> and once again, melissa found herself answering difficult questions. >> i didn't even know there was an insurance policy. i guess i was sort of naïve. we were looking at it for retirement. >> but, while the investigation went on, the insurance company held back any payments. while the whispers went around. it was shocking really. ben had been dead, what, just a few months? and melissa was dating already. >> it was soon, sort of. but it was like if i didn't do it then you almost would get stuck in this rut of never doing it. i would have just kind of hung up the towel and been done. >> put on a black dress and be a widow the rest of your life? >> yeah. >> detective elgas, of course
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was keeping track and trying not to be judgmental. >> she has to do what she needs to do to heal. i wasn't paying attention what was going on. >> but as the months went on a certain clarity began to emerge. despite his own suspicions and others hard evidence against melissa just didn't materialize. in fact he couldn't hip thinking -- >> she probably didn't do it. shy just jumped out of bed and went to a normal reaction, which is what's going on. >> and that's when she discover. >> that's when she discovered that he'd been shot. >> but there was another reason why melissa dropped down the list. and that reason was there was a certain person who did not like that love story we told you about. not one bit. >> i said what did you do? what did you do? and she said what do you mean
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what did i do? you've known me all these years, and you would think that i would do something like that? and i said absolutely. >> when we come back, a whole new theory of the crime, with a whole new list of suspects eager to share secrets. >> no. no. no. no. >> when while they were sleeping continues. >> i've been training all year for the big race in chicago, but i can only afford one trip. and i just found out my best friend is getting married in l.a. there's no way i'm missing that. then i heard about hotwire and i realized i could actually afford both trips. see, when really nice hotels have unsold rooms, they use hotwire to fill them. so i got my four-star hotels for half-price! >> men: ♪ h-o-t-w-i-r-e ♪ hotwire.com >> announcer: save big on car rentals too, from $12.95 a day. [ rachael ] this year, eating fresh... is fast! introducing fresh forward, from ziploc and me, rachael ray.
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if you knew ben, there's no way that you'd want him dead. i couldn't think of anybody that would want him dead, you know, besides dawn. >> dawn. dawn oxly, ben's ex-wife. alissa's mother. as more than a few local gossipers pointed fingers at
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melissa's, ben's best friends said -- >> everything in me said dawn had something to do with that. >> that would have been unbelievable to ben's best friends. not dawn. the force of nature of any room she was in. >> everybody agreed with dawn. as long as dawn was happy then we're all happy. >> but after five years of marriage near ben nor dawn was happy. and the marriage went up in flames. >> ben had cheated on dawn. i could see that. this probably wasn't going to be something that she was ever going to get over. >> dawn changed after that, said cindy. didn't seem to want to act like a parent any more. >> she met a guy, and she would stay the night at his house. i mean, when her kids are calling us up saying we don't have any food in the house. can you come bring us food, there's a problem.
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>> so when dawn and ben went to court to fight for custody of alissa, cindy had to tell the truth. >> i told the judge that dawn wasn't taking care of her kids anymore. they weren't a priority. they weren't even number five. >> when ben won custody of alissa and more than $200 a month in child support, dawn was devastated. this is her mother, sherry, a retired deputy sheriff. >> she would sit in the garage and just bawl about not getting her day in court. >> this is eating her alive. >> yeah. it was it was really taking its toll on her. >> dawn started drinking, heavily. her teenage son devon watched his mother fall apart. >> she's starting to lose jobs. it's like all hell broke loose. >> but murder? remember the police went to see dawn just a couple hours after ben was killed, found her fast
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asleep. >> and what time do you think you went to sleep? >> oh, god. i watched a movie and about 4:00. >> in fact, she seemed to be sharing her bedroom with a family friend. >> we watched a movie and went to bed. that's it. >> not exactly a convincing alibi. anymore than that james was just a friend. when the detective learned about a trip to the 711 store in the middle of the night. >> why are they hiding little pieces that seem insignificant to what is going on. then we started to do surveillance on them. now they start getting worried because they think we're watching them. >> surveillance photos showed dawn with james and her daughters.
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that's right. a year into the investigation, little alissa was back with her biological mom, with ben dead. the courts had slowly weaned her back there permanently. >> so there you are, still trying to grieve the loss of ben at the same time alissa is being pulled back to dawn. >> yeah. the loss of both of them, truly. >> and while the police were watching dawn, dawn was telling her children, including brandy, that the real suspect was melissa. >> she confidently told you that it was melissa who committed this murder. >> yes. >> brandy was hearing that from her mother, dawn, who was drinking too much, getting duis, spending more than a few nights in jail. >> they were getting arrested. we were finding reason does take them to jail. >> and while they had james, they asked him point-blank about the murder of ben oxly. >> do i know who killed ben, no. do i know anything about the
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murder? no. >> were you and dawn in any way involved in the planning of the death of ben? >> no. i'm looking you in your eyes. i did not kill him. >> but that was it. lots of denials. no real evidence. a year and a half had gone by since the murder. it was the summer of 2009. on toward cold case territory. >> getting there. >> and then one afternoon as detective elgas was recovering from a night on the graveyard shift his cell phone rang. it was dawn oxly. >> she said she couldn't take it any more. she wanted to talk. >> what were you thinking? >> it was about time. >> the detective drove over to dawn's house. she was inebriated. but she had quite a story to tell about james. about how he offered to murder ben. >> the night ben died, he said now or never. and i said no. i said not today.
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don't do it. no. he said no. i said no. no. no. no. >> hours later, she said, james woke her up from a sound sleep and told her ben was dead. but that, she said, is all he told her. all she knew. >> were you pretty confident that james had something to do with it? >> i don't know. >> but was that really all she knew? dawn, remember, had a 16 year old son, named devon, who detectives learned, was at home and listening in the hours before ben oxly was murdered. so if any one could confirm dawn's version of events surely it would be difficulten. but he wasn't talking. not yet anyway. >> coming up, the question haunting this whole case -- >> what's our evidence? >> was there any proof against
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anyone? prosecutors were about to make a deal to get the evidence they need. >> do you want to talk about this case? >> you know i do. >> when dateline continues. [ male announcer ] ziploc presents ziplogic. we throw out over $500 in food every year. help save more of it with ziploc freezer bags featuring smartzip. edge to edge protection you can hear. get ziploc. and get more out of it. [ female announcer ] s.c. johnson. a family company.
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here's what dawn's mother, sherry thought. >> i can see her sitting there thinking god, i wish he was dead, and i can see james saying yeah i'll go kill him for you. it was more of a belief than an affirmation. >> that's what dawn said, too, that she did not want james to kill her ex-husband. >> you want to talk about this case? >> you know i do. >> it bass now the fall of 2009. dawn was in jail for a dui and agreed to talk in more detail about the night of ben oxly's murder. >> and he said do you want me to go do that? and i'm sitting there going, are you serious? are you kidding me? all i know he was on the phone he was asking me if i wanted him to go take care of bin, and i was saying no. >> and then she went to sleep, she said. and the next thing she knew james was back. >> he woke me up and said it's done. i was totally drunk and now i'm
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waking up out of a dead sleep and i'm like what the hell are you talking about. he's like the cops are going to be here. and i said the cops are going to show up at my house because my ex-husband's dead. >> and she did not take part, she swore, not at all. >> i didn't drive, i did not go anywhere. i did not plan this. i did not want ben dead. >> so truth? or fiction? there was no solid evidence either way, nor that james killed ben oxly. only dawn's story, at which point assistant district attorney decided he needed her help. >> you love to get everybody involved in the case. but there's a reality in many cases that sometimes you need the help of one of the people involved to get the main person. >> and so dawn oxly was offered a limited immunity agreement.
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testify truthfully against james and you won't be prosecuted. a sort of get out of jail free card. >> why go ahead and make that deal with her so soon. you had her statement. why not hold off for a while and be patient and enthis you can get them both? >> let's say we don't do the deal with her and we go out and arrest him. what's our evidence? >> dawn signed the agreement. and james was charged with first degree murder. but the end of the story? oh, no. not even close. the truth had been hiding, but it was itching to come out. young devon, remember him? dawn's son? difficulten finely decided it was time to reveal what he overheard the night of the murder. >> my mom was like i want ben to die. i just want him dead, yada, yada. and james said i'll go out and kill him right now. it was like a broken record. i want him dead. i want him dead. >> sound like a woman who was shocked when the murder
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happened? but there was more. it was after that when james told his attorney it was time to tell the whole story. >> i could tell he was telling the truth. and over the course of 15 months he always told the same story. >> so now comes another story. james' story. not a love story this time. >> nobody could believe i did what i did. i'd never been a violent person. >> james did not have an easy start in life. by the time he was a teenager, he was drinking, doing drugs, ste stealing things. >> i had pretty much given up any hope in living successfully. >> dawn befriended james, made him feel rescued. gave him a place to live. he'd just been paroled out of prison after doing time for stealing a truck. >> kind of gave me a sen of
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hope. >> at dawn's house james discovered what others had as long as dawn was happy everybody was happy. and if she wasn't, well, then james could not be happy either. >> show was very upset by the fact that she lost alissa. >> and she went on rants, he said, about ben oxly. a man james didn't know. had never met. but he listened. >> you felt like you were in love with her for a little while. gave me a sense of feeling wanted. >> and then he realized, he said, she'd never be happy unless he fixed what was upsetting her. >> i wanted to make dawn happy. >> so what happened? dawn and james' story begin the same way. february 20th, 2008, night of heavy drinking at dawn's house, a heated conversation about ben oxly. james asking dawn if she wants to have him killed. but that's where the stories
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diverge. dawn says she told james, no. don't do it. and fell asleep on the couch. but that's not james' story. >> she was ecstatic about what would happen. she was happy that i was going to kill somebody, you know. >> it was after midnight. dawn drew him a diagram of ben oxly's house so he could find his way to the bedroom. then he went to the 711. drew $40 out of the atm with dawn's bank card. and then they went to the walmart. dawn waited in the car while james did the shopping. shotgun shells, gloves, a flashlight. >> she was very happy about it, like you would imagine a kid going to disney land, you know. >> but there was a problem. they'd forgotten to bring the diagram of ben's house with them. >> the plan wasn't for dawn to go in the house. the plan was just for me to go in the house. and i didn't know -- >> how to get in. >> so dawn had to go inside.
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>> the front door was locked so dawn took him around back where a sliding glass door was unlocked and they eased their way in and walked down the hall. then, said james, dawn pointed him toward the master bedroom. >> and i turned around. she was going into alissa's room. >> going into the room? >> yeah. she was about half her body was into the room. said that she was going to take alissa with her. i was like, you can't take alissa. >> is this true? remember, alissa just six years old at the time told police she remembered seeing someone in her doorway. >> i saw somebody walking in. >> and then, said james, he walked into the master bedroom, saw ben and melissa sleeping in the moonlight. >> and i raised the gun. that's where everything in my mind that should have happened three or four hours ago
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happened. i started thinking why, why am i here? something i heard to my left -- >> sudden noise? >> yeah. and as i turned and jerked to see what it was, i pulled the trigger. >> he ran, then, he said. left the front door wide open. caught up to dawn at the truck. >> who drove? >> she did. i started yelling at her. when i got in the truck. >> the truth, said james, all of it. >> dawn knows the truth, and i know the truth. and that's all that matters. i've taken full responsibility for what i did. dawn needs to take full responsibility for what she did. >> coming up. was ben the only one who was in danger that night? >> what was it like to hear that? >> unreal. >> one more rev vags still to
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it's a rare thing to sit in a jailhouse room such as this while a murderer confesses chapter and verse. denial is the more common language here. but james did not shrink from it. he murdered ben oxly in his sleep and must live with what he did for the rest of his days. >> i'm afraid to deal with what i actually did. >> he told his story in court in december 2011. it was after the da took the death penalty off the table and james decided to plead guilty. and that's when melissa, sitting in the courtroom, heard for the first time about something else james was supposed to do. kill her too. >> dawn asked me if i would kill
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melissa. i just automatically said yeah. >> there was a bullet there for you. what was it like to hear that? >> unreal. >> do you believe that she was in the house that night? >> i do. which makes me sick. i have a harder time with dawn than i do james. because if it wasn't for her none of it would have happened. >> and that's where melissa and the attorney agree. only half a measure of justice. since dawn is protected by that immunity agreement she signed. >> james is not the type of boy who's going to go out and commit a murder in the hopes that dawn will find it acceptable. he didn't do this as a surprise gift. >> dawn herself declined our request for an interview. though her mom, the retired deputy sheriff, has remained in her corner. >> i know that a lot of people believe that, that it was a blatant conspiracy on her part.
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but i don't think dawn really wanted ben dead. i don't think dawn was there. >> you're trying to hold it all together. all the way along and even now. >> you got to understand. ben was a good guy. they had their problems. everybody loved him. he didn't deserve to die. >> so for the time being, it's a he said, she said story. and the da's deal with dawn? to the dismay of james' attorney means she may never face a murder charge. >> the prosecutor made a deal with the devil. now we just need to show him how far in hell she is. >> deal with the devil? well, the d.a. says without dawn's testimony at the
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preliminary hearing, the murder trial against james would never have stuck. and dawn isn't totally off the hook. because there is one possibility still. if the d.a. can find hard evidence that dawn lied when she was given that get out of jail free deal. >> it's still an open book for dawn. if somebody comes forward with credible evidence that shows she did ngwee can prosecute her. >> but now she's in prison for another offense. she pleaded guilty to using her daughter brandy to sell prescription drugs. >> was she employing you as her assistant in that business? >> i was driving. >> dawn could be out in less than two years. but not to be the mother of alissa. the judge terminated her parental rights. both alissa and brandy live with melissa now. melissa who has offered them a kind of family life they didn't know with their biological mom. >> it is a family, and that's
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what i need. >> one more thing to do. last march, having pleaded guilty to murder, james prepared to be sentenced. >> is there redemption for a person like you? >> i don't know. i don't expect anybody that i've harmed or hurt to forgive me for what i've done. >> you're talking to them, right? >> basically talking to melissa. i'm sorry. >> in exchange for his guilty plea, the da agreed to recommend that he be eligible for parole some day, in at least 24 years. finally, it's up to the judge. defense attorney made the argument. and then melissa took the stand.
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>> emotionally, the damage you have caused me is almost unbearable. for alissa, you crumbled her foundation. and everything she knew to be right and true. and as hard as this is to do or believe, i also want you to know i have found it in my heart to forgive you. >> and then james got his sentence. >> the murder charge you're sentenced to life in prison. >> life without parole. ever. afterwards, the little girl in the middle of the family drama, turned to melissa with a remarkable request. alissa asked to meet with james. and was ushered in to see him before he was wisked away. >> i told him that i decided to forgive him. and that i wanted him to have hope. >> and she went then.
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tears of forgiveness, the lingering grief for her father. and as for melissa? >> are you ready to move on? >> i am. very red eye. >> you have a relationship now. you're engaged. >> yeah. >> where will you keep ben? >> he'll always be in my heart. he'll never be forgotten, but we do have to go on. we still have to be here and live day to day life. >> if he's looking down and watching you, what would he think about his daughter? >> i think he still loves me, and i'm doing much better than i was at my other house. >> do you miss him. >> yeah, i miss him a lot. >> you're a pretty strong kid, aren't you? >> yeah. >> that's all for now. i'm lester holt. thanks for joining us.
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new day for the catholic church, and new questions about the church's influence on american politics. we have perspective this morning on the journey ahead for pope francis, from cardinal francis george, the archbishop of chicago. what message did the cardinals mean to send with the selection of the first ever pope from latin america? a special discussion as well with our roundtable on how francis reforms the church? >> plus, the debt dual in washington. is there any rheoom for comprome and is the president right when he argues a balanced budget isn't a priority at the moment? the debate this morning. with us, republican w.h.i.p. of the house, kevin mccarthy and the top democrat on the house budget committee, chris van hollen of maryland. then the future of the gop and a senator's change of heart on gay marriage. is it the beginning of a
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changing tide in the party? wisconsin's republican governor scott walker weighs in. and good sunday morning. a busy first weekend for the new pope, meeting the press yesterday for the first time. and this morning, an impromptu appearance near the vatican, greeting surprised visitors, and then moments ago, before a large crowd gathered in st. peter's square, he gave his first weekly blessing. and another first this morning, his first papal tweet. dear friends, he writes, i thank you from my heart and i ask you to continue to pray for me. joining us this morning from rome, cardinal francis george of chicago. your imminence, welcome to meet the press. >> thank you, david. good morbing. >> i want to begin by asking you what you think pope francis can
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do right away that will define his papacy? >> i think what he's doing now, that is the style is the substance. and while they're small gestures, they indicatie an attitude toward reality and the church that is pornts in the long run. secondly, what he has to do is make decisions about who are going to be his closest collaborat collaborators. >> there's the administration of the church, the sex abuse scandal, what is probably foremost on the mind in america is what does he mean to america? what does he mean to the yoourns, particularly with a growing latino population here? >> you said that very well, he means very much to the latino population because even though many priests in the united states have learned spanish to take care of a growing number of spanish speaking parishioners in the first generation, at least, it's never quite the same to know the language as it is to
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know the culture. he comes from the culture with the language, and that will be a great source of encouragement for all of us, but especially for then. beyond that, in the universal church, it means we are global, truly, in fact as well as in intentionality, and so the crossing of the water to the americas is a very historic moment, isn't it. >> how he speaks about america is interesting as well. i can remember being a young reporter in the '90s, covering pope john paul ii's visit to denver with a youth group from mexico and seeing what a beloved figure he was, there with president clinton, of course, and even more beloved that his successor, pope benedict. what in your judgment, can this pope, could he, should he do to cullivate that relationship with this country? >> well, i was a very young bishop at the time in washington state, and that was the first time i went

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